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May 18, 2011 05:54 PM

Harbin Cuisine, SF Richmond District - memories?


I grew up around the corner from Harbin Cuisine restaurant, which was on Balboa between 4th and 5th Ave. It has been gone a while, I think the current restaurant in that spot is Bay Fung Tong seafood. I'm just wondering if anyone has any memories or information about this place - probably too much to hope that someone has a menu around....? I'm wondering if the people who ran this place relocated? I'm trying to dig deep for some idea about specialties to see if I can spark a sense memory of the food. I probably ate there every other week from 1973 to 1983, but even as I can pull up other childhood food memories, I'm having trouble with this one.

Any recollections? Any news about a current place that might have some of the legacy?

Thanks for any help!

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  1. Harbin has very interesting food. Did they have Russian specialties as well as Chinese and Korean?

    3 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      No Russian specialties that I can remember, although clearly dumplings and pierogies have a great deal in common. Interestingly, Cinderella Bakery was and remains just down the street, and our Sunday AM tradition was Russian pastries.

      Here's something to bring it current - what is Manchurian cuisine, and is anyone serving it in SF right now?

      Cinderella Bakery
      436 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

      1. re: reinadetostones

        I believe Muslim Chinese places serve a bunch of dishes from that region. Old Mandarin Islamic does a good job with the lamb and pickled cabbage "warm pot" (soup), not such a good job with the wheat dishes, which I've had done better at places on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, such as Great Eastern.

        "Manchurian" also indicates Chinese dishes in Indian restaurants.

        Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
        3132 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116

        Great Eastern Restaurant
        649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Harbin is very far east from the centers of Muslim chinese cooking. When I was there, the cuisine was more like beijing for the chinese (thicker skinned dumplings) component, and then the Korean and Russian restaurants. Unfortunately there wasn't much mixing of the cuisines, not that I found in 2 days. Not like Xi'an, where the muslim-chinese faces, dress, and spices slap you in the face within hours.

          For a california take on Harbin, I think you'd start out with a menu with three sections, Beijing, Korean, Russian, and go from there.

    2. Hi folks, just wanted to ask everybody to keep the discussion here focused on the current chow scene. Nostalgia threads are fun, but they usually end up chatty, taking a lot of space and diluting Chowhound's effectiveness.

      Hot, current chow tips are what make the board thrive and make Chowhound the great resource we all know and love, so please rack your brains and see if you can send reinadetostones in the right direction for chow today!

      1 Reply
      1. re: The Chowhound Team

        Right - why I asked about a current place that might be carrying forward...

      2. The NY Times site has a recipe for their steamed egg custard. Do any current Shanghai places serve that?

        8 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Can you please link the article and receipe so we can see how the prep is done and in what style (and thus better answering your question)? Is it similar to R&G Lounge's but without the clams?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Ahh yes, a generic Chinese comfort food homey type dish. Even if it is not on the menu most places should be able to do it upon request, and make their own rendition (especially when the ingredients are simple).

              The Cantonese home version is steamed eggs with water, and is otherwise anything goes. One can incorporate minced pork, made via finely dicing half fat and half lean pork blocks (usually upper back leg) and then hand kneading/mixing, raising your hand while holding the pork, and slapping it hard downward to the bowl (or chopping block) to loosen it up (which hardly anyone does anymore). This pork mix can be seasoned, then mixed in with raw egg (beaten of course), some room temperature water, and then steamed. Add scallions at the end and some high grade soy sauce and it is good. Another variant could be pure egg whites only mixed with tofu and fish paste (and perhaps some dried orange peel).

              There is a Shanghainese variant, it appears called θ‚‰η³œθ’Έθ›‹

              where they incorporate meat and of course stock (instead of water), very similar receipe to Harbin (minus the peas and mushrooms)


              The prep above incorporates water chestnuts.

              As far as which Shanghainese restaurant has this on the me, but I'd just pick the best/your favorite ones and ask them to make this.

              1. re: K K

                I've not seen it on any Shanghainese restaurant menus. Recent good examples at Cantonese restaurants include the version with clams at R & G Lounge, fresh uni at Saigon Seafood Harbor, and live clams again at Gold Mountain in SF. When I order it at a restaurant, I prefer it with live seafood. At home, i'll make it with a combination of salted duck eggs and 1000-year-old eggs ("three eggs on the table").

                While the dish is simple, it does take good timing, constant temperature, and some technique . . . you can read the many flubs on the Home Cooking board of those who've tried to make it at home. One might ask for different additions at a place that makes the dish, but I think the result is probably better somewhere that makes steamed eggs on a regular basis.

                Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant
                3150 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                R & G Lounge
                631 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                Gold Mountain Restaurant
                644 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  China First (on Clement near 4th Avenue) has a number of variations on this dish (steamed custard), all listed on one of the whiteboards. Their whiteboard listings are in English as well as Chinese.

                  I particularly like this place -- cheap, good food. They've recently raised their prices by a small amount, still cheap.

                  China First
                  336 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                  1. re: Joel

                    Good suggestion. I've had good examples at China First and once a little off. To round out the dinner menu, live seafood prices are quite low here and prepared well.

                    Here's an old thread on where to find steamed egg custard,

                    China First
                    336 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                Robert, thanks for this. Eva Chang was our neighbor, and seems to hold the name (or something close - Harbin Shanghai Cuisine) in active status - hence my interest in tracking down a current restaurant that might serve similar food. Also, I found a nice cache of (nostalgic?) interest at archive dot org. Honestly - how can seeing what a past menu holds, compared to today's offerings, be nostalgic? I want to figure out why the 8 year old me liked it so much and find where I can get it now.

                1. re: reinadetostones

                  I lived near there in 1973 and remember it as Harbin Manchurian Cuisine.

          1. Ah yes, the Harbin Manchurian Cuisine. I went there for almost 30 years and knew the owners quite well - their pot stickers (and hot crispy chicken) still have no equal in my experience, and I've eaten a lot of chinese food! To make a long story short, the elderly founders eventually retired and their son, who served for many years as the bartender, simply didn't have the interest or motivation in continuing the legacy. Very sad, as they made some of the best chinese food I've ever eaten. Oh well, at least Cinderella bakery across the street is still open! Fine piroshki (some of the best). Great soups!